My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Monday, January 16, 2012

Going to the Coast

As I set off before dawn last Wednesday, a song kept going through my head, over the mountains and through the woods, to the coast I go.  I had decided to follow Hwy. 20 further than I had made it the last time I set out that way, and to just see what I could see. I had two cameras and my binoculars and even my scope.  I planned to just stop whenever something interested me but had no particular destination.

As I began to climb through the foothills, dawn broke behind me while the moon seemed to be bouncing up and down and to the right and the left as I wound up and down the mountains.

I managed to not stop until I was near the north of Clear Lake. I stopped to look for birds but only found one beautiful image of frost  This was when I noticed I had left my jacket home.  However I had a spare jacket in my backpack and a heavy shirt on so I was OK.

I stopped to check out the historical district of a tiny town called Upper Lake. It was very colorful and even had decorative hitching posts outside some of the buildings.

I admired this decoration on top of an antiques store.


This basket looked very colorful.  But the color is coming from the geranium leaves. This area was all frosted over when I was driving through so they don't have very many flowers in bloom.

Another interesting place that caught my eye was the Jackson Demonstration Forest.  I was a long way from the coast  on roads that kept me averaging about 45 mph, so I only stopped a few minutes to see what it was all about.  This boiler looking thing mounted on big long redwood logs caught my eye.  I found it was called a steam donkey, but nothing else. I looked it up and found it was a steam driven winch.  A long cable was attached to a fallen tree and then the steam donkey pulled it out to a logging site or to a pick-up point.  The steam donkey could even drag itself to a new location. It was anchored to a big tree or other anchor and then pulled itself toward the anchor.

When I  got to Clear Lake, I stopped a few times to look for ducks. These common mergansers were in a lake west of Clear Lake and very far down the bank from the road.

I had to stop a lot to take pictures of the beautiful views. As I went further west,  the hills were covered with more and more trees.

I saw a sign for Lake Mendocino Recreational Area and went in to find a tiny stream and a closed park. But, this stream  runs into the large, dammed Lake Mendocino.

There were several wineries along the way.  The grape vines added yet another texture to the landscape.

And this old barn was another beautiful texture. The frost was still on the ground and even on moss growing on the old posts and fence slats.

As I traveled west, the land looked like it gets much more rain and has more and more trees until mostly all there is are trees and understory.. The last stretch of the road wound tightly through dark forests. The north side must only get full sunlight in summer. In many places, there wasn't much room for error - there is a mostly a sheer drop on the right side. And the views were to tree-covered mountains.  The driving rule is that the slower driver has to pull off where there is a place to do so. But I also stopped in a lot of the pullouts to check out the views.

Finally, about four hours after I started, I got to Fort Brag.  I had set my GPS to show me parks in the area.  I saw one called Ten Mile Coastal Trail that looked really interesting, so I set my GPS to go there.  But when I got to Fort Brag, I took one more look at the GPS and found that Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden was only a few miles south. So I decided to detour there before heading north to Ten Mile Coastal Trail.

This is one of the pictures I took while still in the parking lot. I was immediately hooked, and went in and paid my $10 dollars. It was now almost  noon but I had lots of daylight left.  I ate a orange before starting out for a quick peek.  That peek lasted through two camera batteries and the rest of the day.

To be continued. 

And on a postscript to the falcated duck story,  I got to spend the whole morning there for the last two days.  The bird is fantastic and comes ever closer and feeds and displays to the oohs and ahs of his adoring audience. But even better, to me, is that six weeks of having a constant human presence from dawn to dusk on the viewing platform, has convinced the birds that people there are no threat and we can now get closer pictures of pintails, gadwalls, cinnamon teals, shovelers, American and Eurasian widgeon and even greater white-fronted geese and snow and Ross's geese than we can from the photo blinds. Today we had a coot coming towards me and another visitor from about twelve feet away.  So hurry up to see the falcated duck and all his friends at and Colusa NWR. .